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Hetech recently attended The International Mining and Resources Conference (IMARC) in Melbourne. The annual event is Australia’s largest mining EXPO where the world’s leading mining technology, engineering and finance companies showcase their latest innovations.

With the mining industry currently experiencing an unprecedented change in terms of process automation, IoT and AI, this years event was particularly exciting. There were several new technologies and innovations discussed which promise to make mining safer, efficient and more environmentally sustainable in the future.

Here are Hetech’s top five takeaways from this year’s event:

1. Sustainable Mining Innovation and Goals

Environmentally sustainable mining is in focus right now as climate change forces mine owners to reduce their environmental impact. As part of the initiative to create a more sustainable mining industry, the ReThink Sustainability Index was launched at the event which aims to help mines benchmark alignment with the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals.

The tool, a joint venture between IMARC and ShineWing Australia, will help mine operators measure their progress towards meeting each of the SDG’s 17 goals for sustainability. It will also highlight strengths and areas of weakness which need to be addressed to meet the industries goals.

2. Digitisation of Mines

The digitisation of mines is starting to bring real efficiency benefits to mine owners. IIoT and other technologies have transformed the way data is collected and monitored. Processes that would have previously taken months can now be carried out instantaneously with little to no human intervention.

One such solution showcased at IMARC was CSIRO’s automated groundwater monitoring system. This innovative system uses sensors to remotely monitor groundwater levels deep in the mine. The data is then fed back to a central computer to provide 24hr monitoring for contaminants. Once certified the system will replace conventional manual water sampling methods, which can take up eight weeks to complete.

Hetech with CSIRO discussing their latest automated groundwater monitoring system.
Hetech MD, Mark Steiner with CSIRO

3. Continuous Operations with Automation

Continuous operation of mines is becoming more prevalent today thanks to the increased adoption of automation systems. Innovations such as remote-controlled vehicles and autonomous underground mining equipment mean workers roles are changing from being based behind the wheel or deep underground to working behind a computer screen.

One such solution was showcased by Hetech. The Australian electronics design and manufacturing company demonstrated its Vanadium Spiral ore sorting machine which is designed to integrate with gravity-fed spiral circuits to autonomously separate minerals. The solution minimises human intervention, reduces risk and helps to improve ore recovery percentages from underground mines.

4. Employee Safety through IoT and Automation

The safety of workers down the mine is of critical importance to mine owners and operators. IIoT and automation technologies can help keep workers safe by providing a range of solutions such as automated miners, tracking of personnel and real-time data collection.

Software company Strata creates software to provide real-time tracking and monitoring of personnel across the mine. The company’s StrataConnect wireless system is designed to work in the harshest conditions and does not require any pre-existing infrastructure or hard-wired backbone for installation. It can also be used for reliable communications between personnel including voice, text, and SOS messages, eliminating the restrictions of traditional TTE communications.

5. Mining Simulation & AI

A combination of technologies including AI, drones and big data have allowed mines to be mapped and simulated in more detail than ever before. This allows operators to predict the environmental impact of mining activities including assaying, drilling, sizing, crushing and transporting before they are carried out.

Simulation Engineering Technologies (SET) is a leader in the field with its SimMIne software used to create accurate models of complex mining systems. The solution allows operators to evaluate the development process in underground mines giving them a far better understanding of production system processes. This information can then be used to limit the environmental impact of mineral extraction and develop mitigation systems for environmental issues before they occur.

Our Final Thought

You can see from the above innovations showcased at IMARC that the transformation of the mining industry is in full swing. Mines are set for the biggest upheaval since the industrial revolution in the next few years as more innovative technology gets rolled out. As a result, mines of the future will be more environmentally sustainable, safer and offer greater efficiency than ever before.

To learn more about how Hetech’s electronics design and manufacturing can assist in improving your mining technology contact us today.

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